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- He Knew He Was Right - 70/179 -
remembered, and felt what he had said. There are occasions in which a man sins so deeply against fitness and the circumstances of the hour, that it becomes impossible for him to slur over his sin as though it had not been committed. There are certain little peccadilloes in society which one can manage to throw behind one perhaps with some difficulty, and awkwardness; but still they are put aside, and conversation goes on, though with a hitch. But there are graver offences, the gravity of which strikes the offender so seriously that it becomes impossible for him to seem even to ignore his own iniquity. Ashes must be eaten publicly, and sackcloth worn before the eyes of men. It was so now with poor Mr Glascock. He thought about it for a moment whether or no it was possible that he should continue his remarks about the American ladies, without betraying his own consciousness of the thing that he had done; and he found that it was quite impossible. He knew that he was red up to his hairs, and hot, and that his blood tingled. His blushes, indeed, would not be seen in the seclusion of the banquette; but he could not overcome the heat and the tingling. There was silence for about three minutes, and then he felt that it would be best for him to confess his own fault. 'Trevelyan,' he said, 'I am very sorry for the allusion that I made. I ought to have been less awkward, and I beg your pardon.'
'It does not matter,' said Trevelyan. 'Of course I know that everybody is talking of it behind my back. I am not to expect that people will be silent because I am unhappy.'
'Nevertheless I beg your pardon,' said the other.
There was but little further conversation between them till they reached Lanslebourg, at the foot of the mountain, at which place they occupied themselves with getting coffee for the two American ladies. The Miss Spaldings took their coffee almost with as much grace as though it had been handed to them by Frenchmen. And indeed they were very gracious, as is the nature of American ladies in spite of that hardness of which Trevelyan had complained. They assume an intimacy readily, with no appearance of impropriety, and are at their ease easily. When, therefore, they were handed out of their carriage by Mr Glascock, the bystanders at Lanslebourg might have thought that the whole party had been travelling together from New York. 'What should we have done if you hadn't taken pity on us?' said the elder lady. 'I don't think we could have climbed up into that high place; and look at the crowd that have come out of the interior. A man has some advantages after all.'
'I am quite in the dark as to what they are,' said Mr Glascock.
'He can give up his place to a lady, and can climb up into a banquette.'
'And he can be a member of Congress,''said the younger. 'I'd sooner be senator from Massachusetts than be the Queen of England.'
'So would I,' said Mr Glascock. 'I'm glad we can agree about one thing.'
The two gentlemen agreed to walk up the mountain together, and with some trouble induced the conductor to permit them to do so. Why conductors of diligences should object to such relief to their horses the ordinary Englishman can hardly understand. But in truth they feel so deeply the responsibility which attaches itself to their shepherding of their sheep, that they are always fearing lest some poor lamb should go astray on the mountain side. And though the road be broad and very plainly marked, the conductor never feels secure that his passenger will find his way safely to the summit. He likes to know that each of his flock is in his right place, and disapproves altogether of an erratic spirit. But Mr Glascock at last prevailed, and the two men started together up the mountain. When the permission has been once obtained the walker may be sure that his guide and shepherd will not desert him.
'Of course I know,' said Trevelyan, when the third twist up the mountain had been overcome, 'that people talk about me and my wife. It is a part of the punishment for the mistake that one makes.'
'It is a sad affair altogether.'
'The saddest in the world. Lady Milborough has no doubt spoken to you about it.'
'Well yes; she has.'
'How could she help it? I am not such a fool as to suppose that people are to hold their tongues about me more than they do about others. Intimate as she is with you, of course she has spoken to you.'
'I was in hopes that something might have been done by this time.'
'Nothing has been done. Sometimes I think I shall put an end to myself, it makes me so wretched.'
'Then why don't you agree to forget and forgive and have done with it?'
'That is so easily said, so easily said.' After this they walked on in silence for a considerable distance. Mr Glascock was not anxious to talk about Trevelyan's wife, but he did wish to ask a question or two about Mrs Trevelyan's sister, if only this could be done without telling too much of his own secret. 'There's nothing I think so grand as walking up a mountain,' he said after a while.
'It's all very well,' said Trevelyan, in a tone which seemed to imply that to him in his present miserable condition all recreations, exercises, and occupations were mere leather and prunella.
'I don't mean, you know, in the Alpine Club way, said Glascock. 'I'm too old and too stiff for that. But when the path is good, and the air not too cold, and when it is neither snowing, nor thawing, nor raining, and when the sun isn't hot, and you've got plenty of time, and know that you can stop any moment you like and be pushed up by a carriage, I do think walking up a mountain is very fine if you've got proper shoes, and a good stick, and it isn't too soon after dinner. There's nothing like the air of Alps.' And Mr Glascock renewed his pace, and stretched himself against the hill at the rate of three miles an hour.
'I used to be very fond of Switzerland,' said Trevelyan, 'but I don't care about it now. My eye has lost all its taste.'
'It isn't the eye,' said Glascock.
'Well; no. The truth is that when one is absolutely unhappy one cannot revel in the imagination. I don't believe in the miseries of poets.'
'I think myself,' said Glascock, 'that a poet should have a good digestion. By-the-bye, Mrs Trevelyan and her sister went down to Nuncombe Putney, in Devonshire.'
'They did go there.'
'Have they moved since? A very pretty place is Nuncombe Putney.'
'You have been there, then?'
Mr Glascock blushed again. He was certainly an awkward man, saying things that he ought not to say, and telling secrets which ought not to have been told. 'Well yes. I have been there as it happens.'
'Just lately do you mean?'
Mr Glascock paused, hoping to find his way out of the scrape, but soon perceived that there was no way out. He could not lie, even in an affair of love, and was altogether destitute of those honest subterfuges, subterfuges honest in such position of which a dozen would have been at once at the command of any woman, and with one of which, sufficient for the moment, most men would have been able to arm themselves. 'Indeed, yes,' he said, almost stammering as he spoke. 'It was lately since your wife went there.' Trevelyan, though he had been told of the possibility of Mr Glascock's courtship, felt himself almost aggrieved by this man's intrusion on his wife's retreat. Had he not sent her there that she might be private; and what right had any one to invade such privacy? 'I suppose I had better tell the truth at once,' said Mr Glascock. 'I went to see Miss Rowley.'
'My secret will be safe with you, I know.'
'I did not know that there was a secret,' said Trevelyan. 'I should have thought that they would have told me.'
'I don't see that. However, it doesn't matter much. I got nothing by my journey. Are the ladies still at Nuncombe Putney?'
'No, they have moved from there to London.'
'Not back to Curzon Street?'
'Oh dear, no. There is no house in Curzon Street for them now.' This was said in a tone so sad that it almost made Mr Glascock weep. 'They are staying with an aunt of theirs out to the east of the city.'
'At St. Diddulph's?'
'Yes with Mr Outhouse, the clergyman there. You can't conceive what it is not to be able to see your own child; and yet, how can I take the boy from her?'
'Of course not. He's only a baby.'
'And yet all this is brought on me solely by her obstinacy. God knows, however, I don't want to say a word against her. People choose to say that I am to blame, and they may say so for me. Nothing that any one may say can add anything to the weight that I have to bear.' Then they walked to the top of the mountain in silence, and in due time were picked up by their proper shepherd and carried down to Susa at a pace that would give an English coachman a concussion of the brain.
Why passengers for Turin, who reach Susa dusty, tired, and sleepy, should be detained at that place for an hour and a half instead of being forwarded to their beds in the great city, is never made very apparent. All travelling officials on the continent of Europe are very slow in their manipulation of luggage; but as they are equally correct we will find the excuse for their tardiness in the latter quality. The hour and a half, however, is a necessity, and it is very grievous. On this occasion the two Miss Spaldings ate their supper, and the two gentlemen waited on them. The ladies had learned to regard at any rate Mr Glascock as their own property, and received his services, graciously indeed, but quite as a matter of course. When he was sent from their peculiar corner of the big, dirty refreshment room to the supper-table to fetch an apple, and then desired to change it because the one which he had brought was spotted, he rather liked it. And when he sat down with his knees near to theirs, actually trying to eat a
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